Exercise Really Does Make You Smarter

New research confirms

As if you needed another reason to stay active: exercise makes you smarter.

According to research released earlier this week, pumping iron just twice a week helps to stave off the effects of dementia and improve decision-making skills in older adults.

"What our results show is that resistance training can indeed improve both your cognitive performance and your brain function," professor Teresa Liu-Ambrose, who led the study at the University of British Columbia, told CBC News.

But the positive effects of exercise on your brain aren’t limited to older adults, and there’s tons of research to back it up. In one study that tested both adults and children, scientists found that a half-hour of moderate-intensity exercise actually improved cognition by 5 to 10 percent for hours after exercise ended. Last fall, an Irish study showed that a burst of aerobic exercise bolstered memory in men, both in the short term and over a period of 5 weeks. And other research has shown that fit kids are better at multi-tasking, have sharper memories and regularly score better on cognitive tests.

While the exact mechanisms are still unknown, scientists have theorized both that exercise may actually increase the size of your hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for memory, and that breaking a sweat might give your noggin an extra dose of mitochondria, cells that deliver energy, thereby letting it function more quickly and efficiently.

The point, though, isn’t how, but really that working out will help you stay sharp—and, of course, make you look better—both now and as you age.